Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Forest of Rothko's

I've blogged previously about the Mark Rothko-inspired pieces I've been blowing here.  I've completed quite a few and put them all on a display shelf to try out different arrangements.

I made the display shelves as well.  I been doing woodworking for about thirty-five years and may be better at it than glass!  This display is a little over three feet tall and almost five feet wide.  

It is interesting to mix and match the various colors and shapes.  The speckled ones on the top two shelves are very different depending on how you view them.  Looking straight down into them, especially the flatter ones, give wonderful reflections.  

There is a lot of work represented here - there is at least two hours into each piece, some as much as three.  Blowing them takes about 20-30 minutes max, and then upwards of two hours of cold working (grinding & polishing).

I feel tired now.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stripping . . . for Fun and Profit

OK, so that title is a little misleading.  Maybe I'll get some new readers that way when they are Goggling the subject.  Anyway, a lot of the fused glass I am making requires a lot of glass strips to be cut out of sheet glass.   

This is for pieces such as "Orange Bowl" shown here and even the murinne pattern bars I've recently started making.  The problem is that a piece may require hundreds of strips of glass, all the same width.  In this case, these are half-inch wide strips.  These are then stacked together on their edges to make the layup for fusing into a single blank.  Cutting that many strips is a real PITA (pain in the you know what).  Cutting them all the same size, within maybe 1/32" is even more of a PITA.  

I've got a ghetto set up where I use a very good strip/circle cutting tool but it is limited to cutting one piece at a time and therefore way too slow.  The accuracy is OK, but not really what I need.  I've seen some commercial strip cutting tools that are many hundreds of $.  That isn't in the cards, and after seeing them I've always felt I could build it myself.  I just didn't have the whole thing worked out in my head of how I could do it with stuff I could get at the big box stores such as Lowes or Home Depot, or even order from Graingers.  

That is when I happened upon a post on the Warm Glass site advertising plans for a strip cutter that can be made with the source of parts being Lowes.  And they only wanted $10 for the plans.  The claim was that it would cost about $50 to build.  The bonus was a link to a YouTube video showing the strip cutter in action.  Perfect.  Off to PayPal I went and after purchase, got a secure link to download the PDF of the plans.  All I can say is I'm impressed with the quality of the plans, the clear pictures, and most importantly and exact parts list with part numbers for the pieces I'd need.  

Hi Ho, its off to Lowes I go.  I spent $41 on parts.  I had the rod already, which was a very nice piece of stainless steel, which probably cost $10 with shipping.  Finally, I needed a bed/table for the thing.  I had some old plywood which seemed too rough.  I had a nice sheet of plexiglass that was the right size, but didn't think it would take the abuse.  I usually have MDF around, which would have worked, but nothing in the right size.  So one more trip to Lowes and I got a sheet of particle board covered in melamine for $30.  That is for a 4' x 8' size, and I only used about 32" square, so less than 1/3 of the piece - that's the final $10.  The glass cutting head is the key to all of this, and a replacement Toyo cutter head (one of the best) is $20 with shipping.  So in reality, this thing is closer to $80, but you might get by with a little cheaper if you had some of the things on hand.  

I can easily cut full sheets of glass using this, and I saved about $300 by doing it myself.  Here is the finished product:

And now for the closeup:

If you want/need on of these things, buy the plans and do it yourself.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Photosensitive Glass

Here is a picture of an interesting process involving hot glass (blown) work.  This could also apply to fused glass work although I haven't tried it.  


 This piece is a blown platter that is about 16" in diameter.  The intent was to blow a rondel, a round platter that doesn't really have any dips in the center and almost perfectly flat.  That is one of the ways they made window glass in the "good old days".  Anyway, this one is pretty good for me.  There is a slight depression in the middle which is about half an inch deep.  The interesting part of this is that you use a special glass color which is clear, but photosensitive.  Thus it does need to be kept in a special wrapper until you are ready to use it.  You blow the blank and then anneal/cool it.  The annealer shouldn't be opened much as the piece is light sensitive and will pick up some darkening, however it is a very large exposure time. 

The photo above shows the blank after it came out of the annealer and ready for its exposure.  I took a bunch of egyptian symbols as well as a photo of me and a colleague on horses at the Great Pyramids at Giza.  I just taped these on the glass and even used a Sharpie to write my name and date on it.  We had to work in a dark room with a safe light, just like old fashioned black and white photographic dark rooms.

This was then taken outside.  A very strong ultraviolet light, the sun being a great source is needed to expose the blank, just like a photograph.  We left it outside at high noon for 45 minutes as there was some brief clouds.  Normally 30 minutes in bright sun should be sufficient.

This is then placed in a cold annealer, brought slowly up to working temperature (around 1100 degrees), and then annealed again.  This sets the image on the blank.  You can see in the top picture the color difference.  There is an interesting color cast to the developed image and overall blank.  The original blank was a very pale blue, and this developed piece is a medium amber color.  It would take a lot of practice to figure out just how to make use of the coloring.

Overall, I was impressed with the detail you can obtain using this process.  I don't think I'll do it a lot, as it does require special glass and a means to expose it, but it sure is fun to contemplate.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In the Frame

One late afternoon last summer in Marty Kremer's fusing workshop at Corning, I found myself having a lot of leftover pieces of glass and wanted to do something different.  I had an hour or so before dinner and really didn't want to start a typical strip cut piece.  This is what I came up with from the table scraps.  I finished most of it there, but finally got around to cleaning up the edges and taking a photo.  The photo really sucks but I didn't feel like getting out the tabletop photo tent, lights, and tripod.  So I just spread out a piece of wrinkled fabric and made a quick snapshot.

I had a bunch of white and clear strips left and was playing around with them.  I thought that the alternating patter of the clear and white made a nice pattern and a reminded me of matting on a picture.  That spawned the idea of framing something interesting.  

The pattern bars are actually four strips of a communal pattern "sheet" we made in the class.  That was interesting.  We set up a 20" square on a kiln shelf and surrounded it with kiln furniture.  That was lined with fiber paper.  Then the class went to town in the scrap bins filling the interior with random cuts and colors about 2" thick.  I've done a lot of bars, but never had seen a sheet done like this.  The result was a little less than an inch thick and 20" square.  That was sliced up into half inch thick bars, 20" long.  I selected a few that I thought had a cool pattern and graduation of warm to cool colors.  

Two pairs of book matched strips were then laid down.  The original intent was to fill up the interior of this frame with the pattern bars, but even I couldn't take the jumble of color.  I settled on the two pairs you see here.  There was still an open area and I was getting hungry.  There was a nice piece of chartreuse but not nearly enough.  Rather than cut up in strips, which I knew wouldn't be enough, nor have the look I wanted, I opted to lay it flat.  This is only one layer of chartreuse and there were three layers of clear underneath it.  

Due to the way we were loading kilns, I think this one got bumped a little.  I had to trim the border a little so it isn't perfect, but it's OK.  I had a lot of kiln furniture surrounding the borders, but I probably should have used a little more.  I slumped it in a low square bowl mold and was very pleased.  The wrinkles of the fabric are a little distracting in this picture, but otherwise the photo does show the transparency, which is what I was hoping for.

Control Panel

I'm slowly going through all the stuff I've made and deciding what to do with it.  This is an example of that issue.  This piece I made during on of my workshops at Corning.  

 Well, I should say I made the pieces/parts at Corning and fused it at home.  This is a quick reference picture.  I didn't realize when I took this picture that I'd cut the corners off the picture.  You aren't missing anything as I got almost all of it.  The doughnuts were a somewhat failed effort to do a rollup of a fused panel and then pull that down into a cane that would in turn be cut into a bunch of murrine (how the heck do you spell that any way?).  I wanted the holes in the middle, that much worked.  However I got lots of variation in the diameter of the pulled cane.  This meant some of the bits were larger or smaller than the others.  

The other thing I should have done is bevel the edge of the blank form.  If you look closely, there isn't enough white to completely encircle the rings.  And I think there is a duplicate red - another lesson learned.  Have opposite colors at either end of the blanks.  

Oh well, I spread a bunch of them out on the table and I got the impression of gears.  That in turn made me think of a crazy, Frankenstein-esque control panel.  I laid this out on a scrap bit of aventurine green (sparkly).  Then with a bunch of scraps of other glass and bits, I set up this panel.  I couldn't get it fused while there, so I did it when I got home.  I wanted these to be tacked on, not nearly as much as it ended up.  I kinda like the look, but some of the random bits melted too much.  

Overall I think it's pretty cool.  Note the "signature cane" I made.  The "J" just seems to fit.  I may make some more letters for use in the future.  I am envisioning some sort of much larger piece where this control panel is just one part.  That assembly hasn't been worked out in my feeble mind yet, just another thing I could do if I have the time, energy, money, desire, drive, support, tools, techniques, skills...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Smooth Sailing, Captain Phil

A brief note to say goodbye to my favorite crab boat captain - Captain Phil Harris of the Cornelia Marie.  He was my favorite person on the TV reality show "Deadliest Catch".  I started watching that show when it first came on and don't miss an episode.  Captain Phil certainly had his share of health related as well as boat issues, but I was always pulling for him.  

You can read a little more about it here

Makes me a little worried as he was the same age as me.

Smooth sailing, captain.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hoarding and Cleaning

I really am a sucker for crappy reality TV shows.  The latest one I've been watching is a show called "Hoarders".  It shows here in the U.S. and is all about people whose houses are literally filled to the ceiling with stuff and the floors falling in.  There is a similar show that has been on the BBC for a few years as well.  I have to laugh as it really is incredible.  But I also have seen that I tend to keep a lot of stuff, even it is well packed away in tubs.  This is even true for the blown glass pieces I've made over the years.  

I've been blowing glass for a decade now.  I've made about 1,100 pieces.  Of that number, probably 600 have been sold.  Over a hundred have been given away as gifts over the years.  I have almost 200 marbles of various sizes (2" to 3" in diameter).  There were probably a hundred items that were numbered and photographed, but were cracked or in some other way defective.  That meant somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pieces are floating around my house, basement, garage, and pole barn either being displayed or packed away.

The hoarding had reached its breaking point and now I had to cleanse.  So I spent all day Sunday rounding up all the suspects and laying them out on my living room floor.  I really should take pictures, but I don't always think of it at the time.  There were some that were now apparent that should be destroyed.  I have pictures, but they are either really bad, defective in some way, too wonky to correct, or just plain UGLY.  I got rid of about twenty of them right away.  

Then my toughest art critic (my wife) was brought in to sort them remainder.  We donate about a dozen pieces a year to various local organizations for silent auctions and other fund raisers.  She picked ones out of the pile that fit that need.  We also agreed on the ones we would keep.  My personal collection of about fifteen evolves over the years and older ones keep getting replaced with newer or better ones.  Then I had her pick ones out that we'd try to sell.  There are forty that are in that pile.  About 50 of the "Rothko" series are in various stages of finishing/displaying/readying for sale so these got spared for now.  The final fifty-ish "good" pieces were packed away for a seconds sale or some future use.  That left about fifteen more to toss.  

Probably should have been more critical, but I did get the pieces sorted, organized, and reduced in number.  


One of the pieces I was looking for was a blue "Sea Fan".  This is a really crappy picture, but it was already uploaded so I am going to use it here.  We can't find this piece!!  It happens to be one of our favorites and I hadn't planned on selling it.  It was here sometime before we packed up all the art and put out the Christmas decorations.  It isn't here anymore.  Can't really see myself selling it as it is the last one of three or four that I made.  Kinda weird.  I usually have a good sense of where anything is - and I just can't recall what happened here.  Just strange.

Oh well, guess I'll have to make more.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Rescuing an Old Piece of Glass

I've sold a lot of the 1100+ glass objects I've made over the course of the last ten years.  I figured it out, I've been blowing glass or working in glass in some way for a decade now.  Not sure if I'm getting any better, but I'm still positive that work is progressing.  

So I was cleaning out a tub of old glass last summer and this very early piece was there.  It didn't have the decorations, just a blown floppy bowl.  I liked it but really didn't have a use for it.  It didn't have a bottom so it just rocked back and forth if put on a table.  However it is a pretty good color - "Cranberry Pink" it is called.  So it sat there for a while as I pondered its fate.

At that time I was trying to decide if I wanted to invest in a plotter that cut stencils.  I'd then use the stencils for sandblasting.  One night while watching HGTV with my wife, I noticed people were using scrapbooking punches with fairly heavy cardstock.  That was an epiphany for me.  Would those punches work on sandblasting resist material?  I suggested a trip to the local Michael's craft store.  I had to take my wife so I wouldn't look like a complete idiot.  Usually when I go there looking for picture frames or gifts, I'm the only male in the store.  Anyway, I took a scrap piece of the resist to the store.  Luckily, the punches were not sealed in plastic so I could "try it out".  The punch worked perfectly and out popped a nice little stencil and I had a negative image of the design left in the scrap resist.  Two for the price of one!  I quickly bought four or five punches, and a circle/oval cutter.  

I punched out a few designs and now I wanted to sandblast.  What should I use?  That's when I spotted the cranberry dish sitting there looking ready for action.  I peeled off a number of designs and put them on the dish.  The outside seemed like the best place to put them.  I used tape to mask off the areas between the stencils and headed out to the pole barn to sandblast.  Five minutes later the tape was peeled away to reveal a really nice pattern.  

During my next foray into the cold shop, I lightly ground off the bottom punty crap so it'll sit nice and even on a table.  The final touch was to add the "tub and shower protectant" I posted about a while ago here.  Wow - really nice, the gel really makes it shine and seems to fill in the rough sandblasted texture and doesn't show fingerprints.

The picture sucks, but it was a five minute job to lay down a sheet of copy paper, get out the point and shoot camera, take the picture, adjust it in Photoshop, and post it here.

Wanna buy it?